Best-selling author Jennifer Weiner has responded to the news of New York Times Magazine's "Talk" columnist Andrew Goldman's month-long suspension from the paper over his recent tweets, called "insulting and profane" by New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan. When Weiner tweeted at Goldman last week about the nature of his questions to actress Tippi Hedren, the incident devolved into Goldman using admittedly poor judgment with his return tweets. This lighted the ire of much of the Internet, devolving further into accusations of misogyny and sexism, and leading to a New York Times column from Sullivan taking the writer to task for his behavior. Yesterday, Sullivan wrote that the Times had issued a reminder about its social media policy, and concludes with the note that Goldman would be suspended from writing the "Talk" column for four weeks.
However, Weiner—to whom Goldman apologized, and who accepted the apology—had previously said she didn't feel that level of punishment was warranted, and she followed up with more tweets. Via Mediabistro's Jason Boog, "Jennifer Weiner added a four-point response on Twitter. She began: 'It was not anything I asked for. His apology seemed sincere. I would’ve been happy to let it end there.'" (You can read all of her tweets here.)
We reached out to Weiner for more about her feelings on the matter. She responded via email, "Like I said, I thought Goldman's apology was sincere, and actually quite lovely. When you tell me you've got smart women in your life—including your spouse—and you listen when they tell you that you blew it—that impresses me a lot. I was happy to accept his apology." Weiner admitted, too, that Twitter makes it very easy to behave badly, saying, "It practically begs you to type out your worst and hit 'send' before you can think it through, and anyone with a Twitter account has probably written something they've taken down five seconds later, or thought, 'Oh, wow, should not have gone there.' God knows I have."
Still, she feels that Times writers should be held to a higher standard than the average civilian tweeter (many would agree). "The thing is, I speak for myself, not for the Times...and, as Margaret Sullivan said, Times reporters need to treat the paper's readers—even critical ones—with respect," she says. That "does not necessarily mean turning Times reporters' Twitter tweets into bland, boring, 'here's an article I wrote for tomorrow's paper' feeds," she says, giving the examples of David Carr and Frank Bruni as "lively, voluble Tweeters with distinctive voices who tweet with a lot of voice and attitude without ever calling their readers ugly, or stupid, or unf*ckable. It can be done ... and I'm confident that Andrew Goldman can do it," she added.
But mostly she sees what happened as a broader institutional problem: "I think that Goldman is a symptom, not a disease. I think the Times has a corporate culture where a woman reader says, 'This isn't right,' and a male editor or reporter dismisses or belittles her concern ... like when Jodi Picoult and I noticed the three articles and two reviews of Jonathan Franzen's new book, and Henry Alford wrote 'interested parties should meet in front of Jennifer's TV during Oprah.' (I didn't even get a last name!) Or when I do research showing that only one women versus ten men received the Times Trifecta of two reviews and a profile in 2011, and NYTBR editor Sam Tanenhaus records a podcast where you can actually hear him laughing as he says, 'let's assign two reviews and a profile of that woman right away!'" This begins at around minute 21, with Greg Cowles saying Weiner is "one of a group of women who pay real attention to how we do at reviewing women authors, whether we use equal numbers of male and female critics... " He also says, "she writes very accessible fiction."
Weiner concluded in her email to me, "Suspending Andrew Goldman wasn't anything I sought or asked for, but I believe it sends a message ... and it's a good starting place for addressing the overarching problem that allowed Andrew Goldman to tweet what he did in the first place. I'm confident that Margaret Sullivan and Jill Abramson are up to the task of changing the institutional culture there. I look forward to watching them work ... and I look forward to seeing the work Andrew Goldman does when he returns."